Monday, September 14, 2015

In a previous post I mentioned "LifeLong Learning" (LLL), but only in passing. Now I will go into more detail.

In the academic literature, LLL is described as a concept with multiple definitions. I prefer to focus on 2 of the definitions: learning throughout one's life and outside of a school building. When I first read about LLL, I thought to myself "That's what we need to adopt in the USA." Learning, especially over the lifespan, is not valued in the USA.  Americans focus on just getting through school to obtain a job as adults, and try to get into "good schools" along the way for a "better" (i.e. higher paying) future job. Instead of learning, money and entertainment are valued with popular media focusing on politics (money), business (money), sports (money and entertainment), and TV/movies (entertainment). Americans indicate how much they value certain occupations via salary levels. For example: professional athletes, actors, business leaders, and medical doctors receive high salaries. On the other hand, according to the USA Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013, teachers are not even listed in the top 20 highest-paying occupations. Yet, they are responsible for formally educating each generation of children, who become the adult athletes, actors, business leaders, and medical doctors. I purposely used the word "value" in 2 ways: to suggest the level of importance Americans assign to different occupations and the monetary worth placed on these occupations.

Granted, learning is about gaining knowledge and skills to use in practical ways, such as in school and on a job. However, learning can help you take care of yourself and others. Learning may appear threatening because new or other information may counter your past learning. On the other hand, it can also free you from old assumptions and habits. It can show you an alternative way of looking at a topic and then you can choose to follow it or not. I've learned a lot from professors and books but also through listening and observing outside the classroom. Many tools exist to help students earn but I think learning itself can be seen as a tool for improving one's life and the lives of others.

About terminology, I prefer the term "learner" over "student" because the former suggests action whereas the latter suggests passivity. Actually, instead of "learner" what about "explorer"? For someone who is learning something for the first time, they really are exploring something. Also "explorer" suggests curiosity, risk, and adventure.

Friday, September 4, 2015

As an offshoot of my interest in teachers CPD, I am also curious about their professional development in their pre-service days, especially in teacher-training programs.  Having completed several courses in a graduate education program myself, I am interested in the current state of such training.  So, in light of this background, I read an article by Peggy Barmore at The Hechinger Report titled “Teacher colleges struggle to blend technology into teacher training” (  Her article reminded me of a program requirement in my graduate program:  complete a “technology” course in MS Office.  Yes, it was many years ago (in the previous century) so this course may not even be considered a “technology” course today.  However, even then I did not think such a course should be taught and I wondered about the rationale for it since technology was already changing, though not as quickly as now.  Through various jobs, I had already gained the knowledge and skills in MS Office to complete the course without any effort or learning.  Thus, I felt it was a waste of my time and money. 

In Barmore’s article, the teacher Mr. Gilman makes a good point about teaching technology to student-teachers:  “teaching them how to use the devices in the same manner [I do] is a different matter. You can read all about it … You can see things online. But, until you get up there and do it and make the mistakes … it’s totally different. You really can’t teach it.”  I believe that he means he can teach student-teachers the “how to” of using technology but not its application.  Also, an East Carolina University professor states that in their teacher education program, they require students to list their choice of technology and the rationale for their choices within their lesson plans.  I agree with this approach because then learning about technology is embedded within the student teaching and not taught as a separate course, divorced from their actual student teaching. 

Barmore discusses the different approaches taken by teacher-training programs and the struggles they experience in trying to decide where technology belongs in their programs.  For teacher-training programs, it’s about both learning how to use the technology and the rationale for using it.  I think Tony Wagner said it best at a 2012 TEDxNYED talk:  “The world no longer cares what you know but what you can do with what you know.”  To me, the order of technology also matters:  the “what” (am I going to teach) and the “why” (reason for what I will teach) come first and then the “how” (which tools, such as technology, will I use).